Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR)
European section of United Cities and Local Governments

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Circular economy - 27.04.2020

CEMR survey: recycling centres across Europe in times of COVID-19
Waste managers today face the challenge of maintaining their services, often in the face of increased demand, while protecting workers and users from infection. As many countries are beginning to relax lockdown restrictions, CEMR organised a survey of its members to determine the state of play concerning recycling centres and share good practices.

Fifteen associations of local and regional governments from 12 countries* responded to the survey, which was completed on 21 April.

What our survey shows...

In almost all countries surveyed, recycling centres are open, most often with restrictions. In almost half of countries, the recycling centres were temporarily shut down, while in others they always remained open. In only one country (the United Kingdom), were the vast majority of recycling centres still closed at the time of the survey.

Various rules and restrictions are in place in the different centres in order to minimise the risk of infection. In terms of access, measures include allowing few visitors at the same time through a temporary appointment system and reduced opening hours.

At some centres, users must remain in their cars in the waiting line without personal access to the premises. Vulnerable or sick/quarantined individuals may be banned from entry.

Many rules ensuring social distancing are in force. These include the mandatory use of protective masks and gloves for users and workers, cash free payments and no more assistance from workers to unload waste.

Finally, recycling centres are to be used only for urgent disposal and there may be limitations to the amount of waste one can deposit.

Why have recycling centres reopened?

Many recycling centres were forced to close at the beginning of the lockdown. Some centres were initially unable to ensure social distancing and many municipalities expected staff shortages due to coronavirus infections.

Waste managers began to prioritise their services, such as by focusing on front door collection of residual waste. However, due to confinement, inhabitants have been decluttering their homes and gardening more, without being able to get rid of the resulting waste.

This led to an unprecedented rise in unauthorised dumping of waste and increased pressure to reopen recycling centres. For just under half of survey respondents, the reopening of recycling centres was due to a loosening of confinement, while for a slight majority this was due to increased pressure.

Europe’s towns and cities have to manage and process some 250 million tonnes of municipal waste each year, 482 kg per inhabitant.

The results of the survey are available on the extranet for our members. For further information, please contact Axelle Griffon:

* These included associations from Austria, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Latvia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
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